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NYTimes Whitewashes Israeli Takeover of East Jerusalem--4/18/06

*Most Recent
From Patrick O'Connor*

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<http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=9367>
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<http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=8950>
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<http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=7758>


*by Patrick O'Connor*
*April 18, 2006*

  <http://www.zmag.org>        <http://www.zmag.org>

  Despite a practiced guise of objectivity, the US corporate media’s
  reporting on Israel/Palestine is dominated by the Israeli narrative.
  An April 16, 2006 feature article by Steven Erlanger, The New York
  Times’ Jerusalem Bureau Chief, “Jerusalem, Now” in the Times’ Sunday
  Travel section
  (http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/04/16/travel/16jerusalem.html)
  exemplifies how seemingly professional journalistic standards can
  mask insidious biases and misinform readers. Erlanger, guided around
  Jerusalem by Israelis, omits Israeli violence, stereotypes
  Palestinians, whitewashes Israeli settlements and covers up Israeli
  efforts to take over East Jerusalem. “Jerusalem, Now” is among the
  most political and one-sided mainstream US news articles on
  Israel/Palestine published in the last year.

  In “Jerusalem, Now” Erlanger repeatedly notes his effort to remain
  above the fray – “I try to see it through various lenses”, “I try to
  see Jerusalem as a place where both armies and souls contend”, “I
  try to see the barrier from both the Palestinian and the Israeli
  points of view”, etc..

  However, Erlanger simultaneously provides clues that Israeli
  perspectives will dominate. He notes three times that he was guided
  around Jerusalem by Israelis whom he quotes and paraphrases – “Avi
  Ben Hur, the American-turned-Israeli-turned
-guide”, “Avner Goren, an
  archeologist and guide”, “Eilat Mazar, an archaeologist.”

  Israelis in Erlanger’s article are human beings holding professional
  jobs. In contrast, he never even names a single Palestinian.
  Erlanger’s Palestinians are an undifferentiated mass with
  “ramshackle” shops on dusty, garbage-strewn streets where they play
  soccer, and labor. They are enraged and “hate”, “militants” who
  carry out “suicide bombings”, “riot” and open fire on an Israeli
  kindergarten, and trudge “through the dust or the mud” at an Israeli
  checkpoint designed to “prevent a terrorist” attack.

  American journalists frequently rely on Israelis to explain
  Palestinian realities. In Erlanger’s March 19 story, Israeli analyst
  Yossi Alpher furnishes the article’s misguided thesis that Hamas’
  election victory is comparable to the Iranian revolution. Similarly,
  in Thomas Friedman’s one-sided April 12 Times column, Friedman
  quotes extensively two Israelis’ opinions of Hamas’ electoral
  victory, while citing no Palestinian views. Over the past five
  years, the Times has published 3.4 op-eds by Israeli writers for
  every op-ed by a Palestinian writer. Over the same period, the top
  five US newspapers published 2.5 op-eds by Israelis for every op-ed
  by a Palestinian.

  Erlanger’s reliance on Israeli perspectives frames his portrait of
  Jerusalem. In his second paragraph Erlanger notes - “a narrow moral
  precipice, running between a military checkpoint and suicide
  bombing.” His disingenuous moral equation excludes Israeli violence
  and seizure of Palestinian land. He follows with a misleading
  proverb characterizing both sides, “We shall struggle for peace so
  hard that not a tree will be left standing.” But it is Israel that
  has uprooted over one million Palestinian-owned trees. He then adds
  another grossly distorted parallel -“I try to see Jerusalem as a
  place where both armies and souls contend.” But the only army is the
  well-equipped Israeli army, the fourth largest army in the world.
  Palestinians have only poorly equipped and barely functioning
  security forces, and some poorly armed militias.

  Erlanger claims, “Today, after a long truce with most Palestinian
  militants, Jerusalem is calmer… the level of violence is down.”
  Apparently “calm” refers only to reduced Palestinian attacks on
  Israeli Jews, because daily Israeli violence against 200,000
  Palestinian residents of Jerusalem continues unabated.

  Erlanger mentions Palestinian “suicide bombings” three times in the
  first five paragraphs, and later adds Palestinian shooting at an
  Israeli kindergarten, and Palestinian “rioting.” He minimizes
  Israeli violence, noting only “Israeli troops reinvaded the West
  Bank”, “the siege of Bethlehem”, expropriating land from
  Palestinians, and “some Jews are plotting to destroy it and Al Aksa
  mosque.” The near absence of Israeli violence is remarkable since
  the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reports that during
  this five year uprising Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed
  3466 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and Palestinians have killed
  998 Israelis. During this uprising Israelis have killed five times
  more children than those killed by Palestinian armed groups.

  Israeli soldiers, settlers and police are almost invisible in the
  article. “Israeli troops” are mentioned once and “Israeli police”
  materialize once to separate “tussling [Christian] clerics”.
  Incongruously, Erlanger associates Christian clerics in Jerusalem
  with more violent words than Israelis. There are “furious
  intra-Christian battles”, “the Armenians and the Greeks battle”,
  there is “the war of the doormat, the battling over chairs” and “the
  struggle for the rooftop.”

  Readers might therefore be surprised to witness the Israeli
  military’s ubiquitous presence and violence in Jerusalem. Israeli
  soldiers killed sixteen year old bystander Muhammad Ziad in March,
  2006 in Jerusalem. Israeli police shot in the back and killed 31
  year old Samir Dari in October, 2005. Police frequently assault
  peaceful Palestinian protesters. Near the Old City’s Damascus Gate,
  a major tourist thoroughfare, Israeli police regularly detain and
  beat Palestinians, as they do at other checkpoints. Israeli
  television viewers recently watched police assault a Hamas
  parliamentary candidate near Damascus Gate. In one of many cases
  B’Tselem documented, in November, 2005 police in Jerusalem severely
  beat taxi-driver Iyad Shamasneh, then released him uncharged.

  Erlanger recognizes that “even archaeology is used as a weapon in
  the struggle over the land.” Yet when writing about archaeological
  digs in Silwan, he avoids mentioning recent Israeli government
  efforts to demolish 88 Palestinian homes in Silwan to build a Jewish
  historical park, a plan staved off for now by diplomatic appeals.
  The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions recorded the
  demolition of 94 Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem in 2005.
  Demolitions are executed with the large-scale presence of Israeli
  soldiers and police who often use violence against Palestinian
  civilians.

  Erlanger also doesn’t prepare travelers to witness extremist,
  Uzi-toting Israeli settlers violently expelling Palestinians from
  their homes throughout East Jerusalem. He omits the burgeoning
  settler take-over in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, with now
  over 40 Jewish settlements there.

  In fact, Erlanger makes the massive, illegal Israeli settlements and
  200,000 settlers in East Jerusalem completely vanish. The words
  “settler” and “settlements” simply never appear. Instead, he names
  the settlements of Gilo and Har Homa a “Jewish neighborhood”, and
  “Israeli neighborhood”.

  Not one government has recognized Israel’s 1967 annexation of East
  Jerusalem. With East Jerusalem under Israeli military occupation,
  the UN, the International Court of Justice, all major human rights
  organizations, and all governments clearly state that Israeli
  settlements in East Jerusalem violate international law. But
  Erlanger turns illegal Israeli settlements into cozy
  “neighborhoods”. Even if the Times Travel section claims to avoid
  politics, by calling settlements “neighborhoods” the Times takes a
  political stand against international law. The Times specifically
  chose the Jerusalem Bureau Chief to write about Jerusalem, rather
  than a travel writer.

  Covering up the obvious developments in Jerusalem at this decisive
  moment is tantamount to taking a strong political position in
  support of Israeli domination of East Jerusalem. Ironically, this
  week “The Economist” outlines those developments in a cover story
  “The Last Conquest of Jerusalem” noting that “Israel's plans for
  Jerusalem will create a large Jewish city but will have harsh
  consequences for the Palestinians, on both sides of the barrier”
  (http://www.economist.com/world/displaystory.cfm?story_id=6795641).

  The massive Israeli construction of the Wall, settlements,
  checkpoints and roads transforming East Jerusalem are impossible for
  any observer to miss. Yet Erlanger fails to represent their scale or
  implications. Commenting on Israel’s Wall, Erlanger only notes that
  it scars the landscape, and that Palestinians feel it annexes their
  land and cuts off neighborhoods. He says Jerusalem is built on
  “struggle and rivalry”, but refuses to state the obvious, that one
  side has won the struggle.

  In stark contrast, The Economist explains, “Jerusalem, centre of
  pilgrimage, crucible of history and the world's oldest international
  melting-pot, is changing hands once more, but with a slow and quiet
  finality.” An accompanying Economist editorial notes that, “in
  Jerusalem as a whole Israel's policy has been to entrench its
  control and create facts that cannot be reversed. This has entailed
  reshaping the physical and demographic geography of the city,
  settling Jews on the Arab side of the pre-1967 border and creating
  vast Jewish neighbourhoods to the north, east and south… Sealing in
  and cutting off the Palestinians of Jerusalem will only make another
  descent into violence more likely.”

  In a case of “too little, too late” the Times’ Travel section
  includes a token secondary article, “In the West Bank Politics and
  Tourism Remain Bound Together Inextricably”
  (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/16/travel/16westbank.html) by David
  Kaufman and Marisa Katz which quotes some Palestinian views on West
  Bank tourism. But “Jerusalem, Now”, nearly three times longer than
  Kaufman and Katz’s article, is on the front page of the Travel
  section and featured on the webpage.

  “Jerusalem, Now” reflects either a woeful unconscious bias, striking
  ignorance, a blatant political agenda, or a combination of all
  three. By again failing to tell its readers what is happening in
  Jerusalem, The New York Times has abdicated its journalistic
  responsibility and is effectively complicit in Israeli violations of
  international law.

  *Patrick O’Connor* is an activist with the International Soldarity
  Movement (www.palsolidarity.org <http://www.palsolidarity.org/>) and
  Palestine Media Watch (www.pmwatch.org).
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